I feel downright dirty rebutting something Larry Kurtz says with something Pat Powers says, but here goes:
The indomitable Mr. Kurtz repeats his contention that backing marijuana legalization will help Democratic candidates win in 2016. To support his claim, he cites typical pro-pot propaganda that does not connect the dots between pro-legalization sentiment and useful political mobilization and does not refute the empirical evidence that pro-pot ballot measures haven’t brought young voters to the polls in any useful numbers that change the outcome of elections.
I repeat my contention that there is no sign that backing cannabis will put more donors, volunteers, or voters in any South Dakota candidate’s column in 2016. To support my claim, I cite Pat Powers’s report that the petition drive to decriminalize marijuana has lost its two leaders, Ryan Gaddy and Blake Winfrey, Mr. Gaddy’s Facebook resignation makes the point most clearly:
This announcement is really not something I wanna do. . .but in interest of being a bit selfish (For once).. . With a heavy heart. . . I am choosing to step down as the SDAP Guy. . . I’ve given you my life, every waking hour since March 3rd 2014. I’ve chased politicians around the state. . . Been to Pierre numerous times. Registered a bunch of people to vote. I’ve even been out petitioning. . . But hey. . . 5 people won’t conquer these bogus cannabis laws. . . So until next time. . . When the rest of you wanna really get you hands dirty with me. . . I’ll return with a better bill next season. . . Time to hang up and focus on my own life – Gaddy [Ryan Gaddy, post to South Dakotans Against Prohibition Facebook page, 2015.10.09]
Gaddy is expressing the same frustration that I anticipate will greet any candidate who adopts Kurtz’s theory of cannabis politics as great mobilizer: you’ll trumpet your pro-pot position, you’ll get lots of social-media clicks, but the same four people you already know will show up to actually carry your petitions, knock on doors, or work the phone bank to get donations.
Then again, I could be wrong. New Approach South Dakota, the group petitioning for medical cannabis, had more people than that carrying signs and petitions for them at Swarm Days all the way out in Spearfish on Saturday. Their group has shown able leadership, organization, and press skills. But even their efforts have been focused on their specific issue (that’s not a critique—there’s nothing wrong with a ballot question committee focusing entirely on its ballot question) and have shown no clear sign of the capacity or desire to expand into a campaign machine for candidates.
Of course, Kurtz could still be right. Neither SDAP nor NASD is advocating Kurtz’s preferred policy of legalization. It is possible that the decriminalization petition push is foundering because it does not offer the full pot freedom that potential voters really want.
But if candidates have to go to the extreme of complete legalization to get cannabis backers off the couch for general political activity, they probably shouldn’t bother. Let’s see the pot movement prove itself, achieve its goals, and demonstrate that it’s interested in staying on the scene to address bigger issues.